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My mom found this insect on one of her plants, and she would like to know what it is and whether it is dangerous or harmful. I've done some research and I think it is a nymph of a Zelus renardii, but it could also be a nymph of a Zelus luridus, although the latter is usually found only in North America. Can anyone tell me which one it is, or at least whether it is indeed one of these two?

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Some more info:

  • It was found in Milan, Italy, a few days ago
  • It was on a geranium, where it can find the larvae of a butterfly called geranium bronze (Cacyreus marshalli)
  • She's also found two more insects like this one on a Pittosporum
  • She has seen it by day
  • The body is mainly light-brown with some yellow and orange spots
  • The legs are also light-brown, with some darker spots that seen from very close are actually spikes (see the last picture)
  • The length of its body is around 1 cm, and it is arched upwards
  • I've uploaded some more pictures here. You can ignore the "Not sharp" folder. In the "Sharp" one (which are mostly not that sharp either, but it's the best I have) there's a cropped picture next to each of the full-size ones. Those that I have attached here are chosen among the cropped ones.
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  • $\begingroup$ Great question -- thanks for the detail! :) $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2021 at 5:14

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I agree this look like images I've seen of Zelus species nymphs, and I have no reason to immediately rule out Z. renardii. Though, nymphs of many of the Reduviidae look quite similar to me, and I feel like I've never seen a comprehensive guide to thoroughly/methodically distinguishing nymphs (especially from an internet photo). This is made more complicated given that Zelus is one of the most diverse genera in the Reduviidae family, so narrowing to species within the genus is difficult (i.e., time-consuming) for me. (I assume an expert specializing in these insects would know much more than me).

The purpose of my post is simply to point out that Zelus renardii has been found in Italy, while I can't find evidence that Z. luridus has.

Pinzari et al. (2018) provide a detailed recording of Z. renardii in Italy. They also note that (at least as of 2018), Z. renardii is the only member of this genus found in Europe:

The only species of the genus that has been so far re-corded in Europe, is Z. renardii that has been found in Greece (Davranoglou 2011; Petrakis & Moulet 2011; Si-mov et al. 2017) including the island of Crete (van der Heyden 2015), Spain (Vivas 2012), Italy (Dioli 2013b), Turkey (Çerçi & Koçak 2016) and recently Albania (van der Heyden 2017). In Italy, Z. renardii was recorded only twice in the towns of Rome (Dioli 2013b) and Bari (Cor-nara et al. 2016), and never reported anymore. In this note, we add new records for this species in Italy.

  • As you can see above, Dioli (2013) first recorded Z. renardii in Italy in 2013.

A quick narrowed map search on inaturalist that focuses solely on the European continent suggests that, as of December 20, 2021, Z. renardii continues to be the only species recorded in Europe.

*Zelus map -- European sightings, inaturalist


Pinzari, M., Cianferoni, F., Martellos, S. and Dioli, P., 2018. Zelus renardii (Kolenati, 1856), a newly established alien species in Italy (Hemiptera: Reduviidae, Harpactorinae). Fragmenta entomologica, 50(1), pp.31-35.

Dioli P. 2013b. Zelus renardii (Kolenati, 1856) (Insecta Heterop-tera Reduviidae). Quaderno di Studi e Notizie di Storia Natu-rale della Romagna, 38(133): 232–233.

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